In what has quickly become an annual event, the four major college basketball teams will once again compete in the Crossroads Classic 2013 this Saturday. The event will pit the Indiana against Notre Dame, and Purdue against Butler at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
The four teams used to play each other annually, and thanks to this event that will continue to happen. Last year saw a dramatic turn of events when unranked Butler upset No. 1 Indiana. This year, none of the teams are ranked heading into the event.
(Editors Note: All rankings via Pomeroy)
Notre Dame vs Indiana – 3:15pm ESPN/WatchESPN
Where they stand:
Notre Dame (7-3)
The Irish have struggled to find consistency this season. While they have only lost three games, two of those losses have been at home. The third was during the Big Ten/ACC Challenge when they fell at then-No. 23 Iowa. Just last night, the Irish lost to North Dakota State at home by four. Senior Jerian Grant leads the team with 18.7 points per game. Four of their starting five players are averaging points in the double digits as well. The Irish offense ranks in the top 30s in the country, but at times falls apart.
The Hoosiers are still trying to figure out their identity. This isn’t the fast paced, relentless offense from last season. The team is now built on a foundation of rebounding and tough defense. IU has the 11th ranked defense in the country heading into this game. IU’s two losses this year have come at the hands of then-No. 18 UConn (by one point) and at then-No. 4 Syracuse. Not too bad for a team that lost four starters and over 70-percent of its offense from last season. Sophomore Yogi Ferrell leads the team in scoring with 16.4 points per game. Freshman phenom Noah Vonleh has proved to be a double-double machine averaging 12.8 points per night and 10 rebounds.
The Irish have the edge in terms of experience, with four upperclassmen in the starting five. The Hoosiers haven’t quite nailed down a starting lineup yet, but regardless it doesn’t feature a ton of experience. That said, IU has the more talented team right now.
The Hoosiers may lack a consistent scorer, but recently Evan Gordon has been on a tear. The past two games he has scored 41 points on 17-of-21 shooting. He’s also shot 71-percent from the three-point line, finally giving the Hoosiers a floor spacer. If he can play at a high level against the Irish, I like the Hoosiers chances.
After having back-to-back 20+ point games, Notre Dame’s Grant had just nine points (all from the free throw line) in Wednesday’s loss. Grant is going to be looking for a bounce back game Saturday. If he tries to force too many shots, he will quickly become a volume shooter with far more misses than makes. That plays into the Hoosiers hands (literally) as they’re great at snagging boards. If Grant can play at his season average, the Irish will be in good shape.
Notre Dame has yet to play up to its potential this season, and since losing to Syracuse the Hoosiers have been beating opponents to a pulp. Indiana will also have a crowd advantage, as Hoosiers basketball fans travel better than the Irish. I like IU to win a close game in Indianapolis.
Butler vs Purdue – 6pm BTN
Where they stand:
Despite losing coach Brad Stevens to the NBA, this is still the same type of Butler team you’d expect from recent years. The Bulldogs are tough, shoot the ball well, and still have a tendency to punch above their weight class. They lost two games in the Old Spice Classic a few weeks ago. The first loss was by two points to then-No. Oklahoma State and then in overtime against LSU. Butler is led by sophomore Kellen Dunham, who averages 18.7 points per game and has shot over 60-percent the past two games. Senior Khyle Marshall has also been outstanding for the Bulldogs with 17 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.
The Boilermakers also competed in the Old Spice Classic, nearly facing Butler in the third round of play. They too lost their only games of the season in this event. Despite rallying against Oklahoma State, the Boilers ultimately lost by 10. They then played a disastrous second half against Washington State for their second loss of the year. Purdue is another young team that is struggling to find its identity, and something resembling consistency. They are led in scoring by the Johnson brothers, Terone (12.8) and Ronnie (11.9).
Can Purdue center AJ Hammons be a dominant force on the low block? His scoring is down from last season, rebounding is stagnant, and the only improvement is blocks per game. If he can turn it around against a tough Butler team, then Purdue has a center piece for the next few years. A big game from Hammons opens up the offense for everyone else since Butler can’t guard him one-on-one.
Will Butler continue to rain threes upon their opponents? They’re shooting 46.5-percent from the arc over the past two games. The hot shooting makes up for a lack of size down low, where Purdue has an advantage. If the Bulldogs stay hot from outside, it will be a long day for the Boilermakers.
The Bulldogs love to slow down the pace of the game, ranking 300th in the country in tempo. Purdue, on the other hand, likes to run up and down the court sitting at 37th in tempo. Generally, the Bulldogs get their way when it comes to pace (see: Butler vs IU, 2012). If this turns into a plodding halfcourt game, the Bulldogs could run away with the game. This feels like the sort of game Butler always manages to pull out, which is why I’m picking them to win.
We’ll have coverage of both games on Saturday.
Make sure to follow us on twitter, we’ll be live tweeting the games @InkOnIndy.